Friday, December 30, 2011

Living Outside the (Gift) Box

I was in Julia's classroom, helping with her Christmas party a couple of weeks ago.  I had one of those moments that illuminated the reality of my life.  Three years ago I was in the same classroom, helping with the same party for my boys.  It was déjà vu.    The same classroom, the same teacher, the same excitement and activity.  The cast of characters is different, but only slightly. 

What struck me was that three years ago at this very time, we are unware of Marc's illness.  We were oblivious to the pain we would suffer in two short months.  If you would have told me in that moment what my life would look like three years later, I would have been incapable of comprehending it all.  If you would have told me that my husband would battle cancer, lose the fight, and I would be a widow in eighteen months, I would have panicked.  If you would have told me that in three years I would be engaged to be married again, I would have told you that you don't know me and that would never happen.  Never say never. 

So here I sit, three years later with a different path set before me than the one I had planned.  I had made assumptions three years ago that life would look much like it always did.  In my mind I had made sure of it. It makes me wonder about life three years from now.  I know better now.  I got to this point day by day -- one day at a time.  For God being so infinite, He seems very concerned with wanting us to live in each day and not worry about the future. 

I guess that's the lesson I want to share.  Three years ago I lived inside my comfortable box.  Like most of you I had a formula -- a safe formula -- for happiness.  I insulated myself to the best of my ability against illness, financial loss, bad relationships...risks of any sort that would threaten my current or future happiness.  I controlled the details and thought I had covered the bases.  Perhaps in the back of my mind I thought that if I did all the safe things, harm would not come to me or those that I loved.  I was wrong. Obviously.  Life is not formula.  A friend once told me, "God is concerned with your holiness, not your happiness."  Sounds brutal, but it's true.  What I have learned  is that I am much more happy ditching my formula and seeking God's will.  Sure it is a lot more scary and there are risks, but there is much more freedom outside the box.  I have learned to love easier, relax and not worry so much, fear less, and share the gifts with which God has blessed me.  Let's face it, when we live inside our very small boxes and protect ourselves, it doesn't leave much room for much else. 

I would encourage you in this season of giving and in ancitipation of the New Year, to let go a bit.  You have no idea what tomorrow or three years will bring.  Sure it's frightening to think about the possibilities -- they are as infinite as the Lord we serve; however, I would contend that ditching the formula and getting outside the box provides amazing freedom.   For some of you the thought of this will frighten you.  Likely you will add a few more safe variables to your formula to extra-ensure your happiness, perhaps thinking there is no way you want to ever risk being like me and living through the likes of our losses.  Trust me...the the thought process that "it can never happen to us" doesn't work.  I tried it.  I would encourage you to simply enjoy His Daily Bread, rejoice in the day that the Lord has made, and love one another.  Take it from a reformed box dweller -- it's better on the outside. 

So with that....may God bless you and keep you in the coming year.  And, may you find the faith necessary to trust Him...

With love and gratitude....

Living outside your own box means......


Singing your heart out despite stage fright -- ahhh...the body language says it all.


Staying on your knees praying for our innocent children...then rejoicing for each healthy day we have.


When in Rome....dress as the Romans.  Steve...the Carhart looks great on you!


Trusting someone else to parent your child....and teach them about sharp projectiles. Yikes!


More projectiles....


And more....(okay, I'm proud of this shot....see the arrow leaving the bow...oh, yeah!)


Making time for messes and less than perfect help.


Blessed to be able to love more abundantly....


Celebrating the differences in personality with those we love.  Yes, I am wearing pink work boots :)


Loving your neighbor...


Keeping our vows...in sickness and in health...for richer or poorer...in good times and bad.  I love you Jenni and Steve!  So proud of you!


Celebrating being a future Grandma at age 40.  Again...yikes!


Leaving messes like this to wait.....


To enjoy moments like this!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Slalom Amazing

Marc was blessed to end his career at a phenomenal consulting company.  Slalom Consulting/ Two Degrees, was a wonderful place to work.  Marc loved his assignments and his co-workers.  In addition, they always made the families of the employees feel valued and appreciated.  We were blessed by Marc's job tremendously over the last few years. 

When Marc became ill, Slalom continued to be supportive and proactive in helping us.  They provided amazing benefits, disability, and extra touches that made our lives a bit more bearable. When Marc couldn't work full time, they found part time work.  When he couldn't commute any longer, they provided jobs he could do from home.  When he finally had to take permanent leave, they were in constant communication and provided help with figuring out disability and health insurance.  I have never heard of a company that is so invested in the welfare of their employees and families.

It's been over a year since Marc passed away and yet we are still in communication with our friends at Slalom.  This week the kids and I received another over-the-top blessing from them.  One of the hardest things for me to part with was Marc's laptop.  It was his tool...the item that he used daily for work.  Every time I opened it up, I would see his fingerprint smudges on the screen and remember him staring at it deep in thought.  It was company property, though, and I knew I needed to return it.

After hemming and hawing over it for months, I finally contacted Niki, our HR contact at Slalom.  She has always been a gem of support and encouragement.  I apologized for my procrastination and made arrangements to send the laptop back.  It was then that she told me that if I wanted to keep it, I could.  Or, they had another plan -- one huge over-the-top plan that would bless my kids.  She left me to think about it and talk to the kids about it. 

This week the over-the-top plan came to fruition.  Friday morning Niki left her huge work load and personal holiday demands, boarded a plane in Seattle and flew to Portland.  She then drove an hour to our home and personally delivered four laptops to the kids.  Each laptop has Marc's files on them -- pictures, music, and documents.  Each of them now has access to "Dad's" computer whenever they want.  In addition, the IT group copied all of the emails Marc and I had sent back and forth over the years.  Every request for a gallon of milk, to quick notes of encouragement back and forth, are all on a thumb drive.  Priceless.

I can't explain how much this means to me and the kids.  While the gifts have been overwhelming and appreciated, we are more touched that this company has invested so much in us on a very personal level. They don't owe us anything.  They don't need to continue to reach out, and yet they do.  Their kindness has been such a tremendous encouragement and blessing.  We have nothing we can give them in return -- a humbling place to be.  We can only offer our gratitude.

To our friends at Slalom, Niki -- Thank you!  Our cup overflows!  Your generosity has been incredible.   Merry Christmas and may God bless you and keep you all. 

Thank you, Niki, for taking time to be with us and bless us so abundantly.  We loved spending the day with you!  Thank you!!!

We were able to surprise the kids on Friday.  They had no idea that Niki was coming.  She staged the computers and was able to surprise them when they came downstairs.

Ooooh!  Exciting!

Working with a six-year-old and a laptop.  Niki is one patient soul!

Mini-Marc

Deep in thought.  I've seen that look before....

With love and gratitude....